From Mountain Tops to Coral Reefs: 10 Most Loved Photos From August

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Why UFO clouds crown mountain tops

Photo: wildlifr [CC by ©]/ MNN Photo Pool

We had an outstanding month with reader-submitted photos, and these ten images stood out as favorites. We love to pair interesting facts along with beautiful images, so we hope you also had fun learning about what is in the shots, from debunking myths about raccoons to the dramatic power of lightning. And in this image, we learned about what lenticular clouds are and how they form -- and no, they aren't cloaks for UFOs as some folks out there believe. But that doesn't make them any less fascinating. These aren't the only clouds that caught readers' eyes.

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Cotton candy-colored clouds

Photo: wildlifr [CC by ©]/ MNN Photo Pool

One of the most inspiring aspects of the Photo of the Day series is seeing the world through your eyes. Such is the case with this incredible sunrise that photographer Tony Carado captured. The soft lighting and gentle clouds contrasting against the sharp vertical of the trees and mountain in the distance is a great scene to witness when starting the day.

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Why raccoons wash their food before eating

Photo: © Jaymi Heimbuch/ MNN Photo Pool

You've probably heard that raccoons wash their food before they eat but did you know that... it's not true? We debunked the myth in this photo of the day, and discussed how it's really all about a raccoon trying to "see" its food through the sensitive pads of its paws. "Rolling their catch around in their paws lets them know just what they're about to eat. Same goes for when there is no water around at all. While the action looks like washing, it's more about getting a good enough grip on their catch and figuring out the best way to get their meal into their mouth."

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5 fascinating facts about coral reefs

Photo: Allan Hopkins [CC by NC-ND-2.0]/ MNN Photo Pool

Did you know that coral reefs are important to the development of new medicines? That's only one of the five interesting facts we discussed with this beautiful image photographed by Allan Hopkins. Coral reefs are not only gorgeous but are scientifically fascinating, which is probably why this Photo of the Day made it to the top 10 reader favorites from the month.

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How to prepare for bad weather during a hike

Photo: wildlifr [CC by ©]/ Flickr

Stormy landscape images are amazing but they may come with risk. Rapid shifts in the weather can mean trouble when you're out on a trail far from help. We discussed how to prepare yourself for a hiking trip with the weather in mind so that you're smart and safe while enjoying a hike, and so that you can fully enjoy spectacular views like this.

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This predator is an unlikely ally for declining red squirrels

Photo: Phil Johnston [CC by ©]/ MNN Photo Pool

Every species, every animal, has an interesting story and an important role in the habitat in which they live. The pine marten has its own amazing story, and the comeback of this predator in its natural ecosystem is actually having a positive impact on its prey, the red squirrel.

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Hummingbirds 'shape-shift' wings for precise flight

Photo: gardener41 [CC by SA-2.0]/Flickr

We adore watching hummingbirds flit from flower to flower, but we rarely stop to think about the power and anatomical prowess with which they do it. We enjoyed both an outstanding photo and some interesting science on how they shift the shape of their wings to be able to fly like perfect tiny helicopters.

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A scene that'll get you hiking

Photo: Guy Schmickle [CC by ©]/ MNN Photo Pool

Celebrating the great outdoors is something we ought to do every day, and photographs transport us there even when we can't escape the office during the work week. Meditating for a few minutes on this amazing scene is sure to calm one's nerves and bring the stress level down at least for a few minutes of the day.

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5 unbelievably true facts about lightning

Photo: Donald Quintana Nature Photography [CC by ©]/ MNN Photo Pool

A bolt of lightning can heat the air around it to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. No joke! This and more crazy facts about this natural phenomenon lit up the Photo of the Day for August 12th, and this electrifying image by Don Quintana was the perfect compliment for learning.

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Fun facts about hedgehogs

Photo: timm jensen [CC by ©]/ MNN Photo Pool

Hedgehogs are quite possibly the cutest garden visitors around. But there is more to them than just being adorable, as we learned with this sweet Photo of the Day. For instance, did you know that the smallest species of hedgehog to ever live was only around 2 inches long? Talk about pocket-sized!